Predators GM David Poile Confirms What We Already Saw Coming

Craig Smith #15 of the Nashville Predators (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
Craig Smith #15 of the Nashville Predators (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images) /

It was fully expected that some key pieces wouldn’t be returning to the Nashville Predators lineup in 2021. The front office confirms that thought.

Now that the Stanley Cup has finally been awarded, the fast and furious offseason is officially upon us as the Nashville Predators figure to go through a bunch of changes.

Predators GM David Poile is up against a critical offseason that’s full of uncertainty as the team fell short of expectations for a third-straight season. It’s starting to look like a sizable rebuild is coming.

Poile has confirmed that indeed both Craig Smith and Mikael Granlund are testing free agency and aren’t returning, per Robby Stanley:

Not really a bombshell, but definitely raises your eyebrows a bit as the Predators are freeing up salary cap space. However, does this mean Poile has a trick or two up his sleeve or that he’s conceding to a rebuild for at least next season, and maybe even longer?

Korbinian Holzer and Yannick Weber also join that list of free agents that likely won’t return according to Poile:

A new era of Predators hockey is coming

We covered the possibility of this all summer during the stoppage, and it was always thought that one of either Granlund or Smith wouldn’t be coming back. However, there was an outside hope that Smith would stick around for the right price.

You can’t blame either Smith or Granlund for wanting to test the waters elsewhere. Smith should get a decent deal from a team that feels they need a glue guy, while Granlund might have to settle for a reduction in what he originally was expecting to make before 2019-20.

As bad as next season might end up being, and it might get to the point of flirting with last place in the division, this is something that eventually happens to every team. That Stanley Cup window has been talked about for a few seasons now, and the Predators just didn’t strike while the iron was hot after the trip to the Stanley Cup Final in 2017.

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This is going to offer a great opportunity to see what Nashville has in their prospect pool. There’s plenty of room for prospects to have breakout seasons on the NHL level and keep the Predators in the hunt for a wildcard spot.

You can’t completely dismiss the Predators, but it certainly doesn’t look promising. But high-ceiling players like Philip Tomasino, Eeli Tolvanen, Alexandre Carrier and Rem Pitlick all have great chances to make an NHL splash whenever the puck drops next season.

It’s both an exciting time and a scary time for the Nashville Predators. They haven’t been in this boat for a while. Not since Barry Trotz was finally let go and Peter Laviolette took over a team that missed the playoffs the season before.

The flat salary cap doesn’t help matters at all. A team like the Predators that’s very thin behind their top players needs to make some big free agency moves, and the salary cap room just isn’t there.

We’re at a crossroads with this franchise right now. The Predators could make some very wise and effective offseason moves to keep things moving forward, or we might be in store for a long rebuild that last multiple seasons and wastes the peak years of some of our best players like Filip Forsberg, Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis.

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Buckle up because we’re going to have to take our medicine and watch the growing pains of a young Predators team in 2021.